Film Screening in Hong Kong Tests University’s Tolerance

Five years ago, on the eve of the Lunar New Year, Hong Kong authorities arrested about 50 people when crowds tried to protect street hawkers selling fishballs in the bustling Kowloon neighborhood of Mong Kok.One of the most densely populated business neighborhoods in the world, Mong Kok is jammed with restaurants, bars, small shops and markets, a street scene scented by the aromas wafting from a buffet of food stalls, many of them illegal but nonetheless beloved.“The street stalls are very much part of Hong Kong culture, but they’ve been disappearing as part of the process of redevelopment and urban renewal,” Fuchsia Dunlop, a Chinese food expert, told The Guardian soon after about 100 people were injured in the so-called Fishball Revolution, a mass action FILE – An unidentified man is escorted by riot police at Mong Kok in Hong Kong, Feb. 9, 2016.The student group responded by contending the administration was hampering academic freedom and suppressing free speech. They emphasized the Fishball Revolution is “an integral part of the history of Hong Kong” and that they “shall never be muted or yield to fear.”FILE – Riot police stand guard as rioters set fires and throw bricks in Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Feb. 9, 2016.The Fishball Revolution was “the worst outbreak of rioting since the 1960s,” according to The Economist.Police estimated that, at its peak, there were more than 700 people involved. Leung, along with many others, was charged with rioting and assault on a police officer. He is expected to be released early next year.After the first screening, Edy Jeh, president of the Students’ Union, said the documentary production group and director had confirmed the documentary doesn’t breach the National Security Law, and emphasized that the screening is a review of what happened in 2016 from an academic perspective.Jeh said, “We still stand by the claim of academic freedom. We believe the screening is a demonstration of academic freedom.” Tracy Cheng, vice president of the Students’ Union, said Hong Kong’s political situation has undergone great changes under the National Security Law, in which freedom of speech and academics have more constraints.She said, “After 2019, their concern for society or their critical thinking has actually improved a lot. I believe that when students have some views and feelings on the society, they will be able to make a greater contribution to society in the future.”Rebecca, a student at the HKU who attended the screening and did not want her full name used, believes that the Mong Kok riot was an important historical event in Hong Kong, and attending the screening, despite the school’s objection, was even more important. Although she worries that under the National Security Law, the school may punish them afterwards, she has no regrets, saying, “By all means, I think I should have come.”Another Hong Konger who asked to remain unnamed said after the screening that the Fishball Revolution has had a profound impact on Hong Kong’s civil movements, especially the mass protests of 2019 that were, in essence, a referendum on Hong Kong’s loss of autonomy from Beijing.”Leung was among the first ones in the movement. They made people reflect on the feasibility of fighting by force and how much they could do,” said a Hong Konger who remembered the Fishball Revolution. It was one of the first “when they began to mask their faces, and people began to push some debris out to block the roads, etc.”“When you can’t achieve it within the system, you have only two (choices), one is to give up and the other is to fight on the streets, which paved the way for the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement,” the Hong Konger said.

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